Projections - Movie Reviews

Diamond Men

The luster that Robert Forester and Donnie Wahlberg put into Diamond Men make it worthwhile even if the screenplay from director and producer Daniel M. Cohen hits rough spots before making a nice cut forward at the finish.

Since his rebirth with 1997's Jackie Brown, Forester has gotten more work, mostly in independent cinema rather than mainstream.

Here, Cohen does fine with the effortless middle-aged performer, as the chemistry between two diamond salesmen and the director's understanding of the business is a wise play to make Men memorable.

At the start, Forester's Eddie Miller is a widowed salesman who has had a career setback after a heart attack.  He's being phased out of his backwoods Pennsylvania domain and the company hits the uninsurable man where it hurts. Wahlberg's Bobbie Walker is the crass upstart whom he has to train to be his successor.  Bobbie likens diamond selling to snack food in his former vending machine work.  He's not into the business of dealing with small-scale jewelers, because the salesman's life can provide opportunity to make it with lonely women looking for a good time, but the early discouraging nature of their relationship starts to dissipate as the cocky apprentice comes to appreciate Eddie.

Their friendship leads to a blind date with a call girl Katie (Bess Armstrong) at a nearby massage parlor nicknamed the Altoona Riding Club (the film's original title).  Eddie is reluctant initially, but is drawn to the charmingly smart Katie.  As Eddie starts to loosen up, Cohen gives Diamond Men a larcenous edge that may be too sharp for some caught up in a buddy picture.

What's good for the audience is being more than introduced to an occupation which usually isn't emphasized in studio films.  But the daily nuances of being a salesman, hardly seen in American films coincides richly with the depth that Forester and Wahlberg (Southie) offer to their parts.

Eventually, life at the bordello starts to take away some of the gritty authenticity of Diamond Men as romance and crime intersect with some dark, unscrupulous clouds hanging over the proceedings.

Yet it's to the credit of the resilient, subtle power of Forester and Wahlberg, whose Bobbie is engaging despite his boorishness, that Diamond Men has the heart of Hollywood's Golden Age.  The widower and the preening protégé are the endearing fulcrum that keeps stock characters like Armstrong's mature madam and Jasmine Guy's parlor lady less wearisome, considering the surprising soulful way Diamond Men overcomes its flaws and moral ambiguity.

Diamond Men

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